Culture Cultures

UNBUILT: Culture Cultures

Featured in this week’s UNBUILT post, is Zherui Wang’s Coney Island Life Screen project. Check out his 3D model here.

Zherui Wang
Pratt Institute School of Architecture
Lee and Norman Rosenfeld Award for Best Thesis
Critic: Jason Lee, Michael Chen
In Collaboration with Molly Mason


“We are only being offered one particular story about the deployment of networked informatics in the urban Milieu… it only portrays the narrowest sliver of what is possible.” -Adam Greenfield, Against the Smart City


New York, 2050. The agenda of the Smart City is to collect information from the vast datascape that saturates urban environments and render it actionable. The collection of data, lying latently embedded in everything we know, has had an increasingly physical effect on how cities grow, mutate, and behave. With each evolution of information infrastructures follows a higher degree of data resolution and, theoretically, a more sensitive city. We are interested in the next paradigm of information, life after the Smart City: a Biosentient City. By combining wetware with the New York’s existing hardware and software infrastructures, we are speculating on a new urbanism brought about by information.


Data requires units of measurement; Information requires an awareness of trends. The human body is already a rich site of bio-information. With a microbiota to human cell ratio of 10 to 1, these micro-organisms provide highly specific profiles of bodies and their activities. By tracking microbes, we observe that the data between bodies and bodies and bodies and spaces is in constant exchange. The Biosentient City begins with the dispersal of airborne bio-sensitive agents, bacteria capable sorting microbial data with an enhanced sense of delicacy and reacting based on a genetically programmed ruleset. If we coat New York with enough of these agents the City can truly behave as an organism; the collective bioagent population will register microbial exchange and behave accordingly. The city will transform with its own emergent consciousness.

New patterns of behavior will emerge at different scales within the Biosentient City-some with explicit instructions from municipalities, others seemingly of their own accord. We expect these to be accompanied by design moves on the urban, architectural, bodily, and micro scales. Changes to the Zoning Envelope will affect aerodynamic (and thus bioagent) flow through the city, creating neighborhoods of high information collection and potentially changing real estate value. Street space, the public tissue housing the exchange between many bodies, becomes invaluable in observing rising trends within the city.


A new body consciousness will descend upon the New York, allowing for the formation of new typologies such as the Pharm, a public facility where bioagents are grown, collected, and released. The site, 67 Greenwich Ave, acts as an entirely public space, a park where strange events occur in a normative manner. Interfacing with the biosensitive microtextures that compose the architectural assembly, visitors donate their microbes to the architecture which, in return, sniffs and trembles as it exchanges information with bodies. The body and architecture have tangible effects and affects on one another.


Through this exchange, we expect many issues to arise: questions of privacy, of resistance or compliance, speculations on policies, debates of top-down versus bottom -up, promises of material, challenges of “natural versus artificial.” Culture Cultures explores the emergent cultural trends of a city beginning to grow as a biological culture.

UNBUILT: Fractured Veins

UNBUILT: Fractured Veins 

Design Team- Luke Prifogle + Dane Stokes
PennDesign 2014
Studio Instructor- Hina Jamelle
Structural Adviser- Daniel Brodkin | Principal ARUP | NYC
Structural Adviser- Matt Jackson | ARUP | NYC

Fractured Veins is a mixed use tower located in West Chelsea that holds retail, commercial, residential, and luxury that combines structural elegance with striking aesthetics. Through iterations of formal and diagrammatic transformations, based on the state change of metallic crystals in meteorites, a formal driver appeared.

Fractures in the form created structural lines up the building. This allows for a structural system that allows the form to play in between the veins of the building.

The transition of program from commercial to residential takes place along these fractures, mixing the program of the building in a new way. The veins respond to these transitions, along with the facade. The fractures cut into the building, creating a relationship of facade to interior of the building.

FLAT.obj|Modelo Blog Series

Featured in this week’s UNBUILT post, is Jaime Rivera’s FLAT.obj project. Check out his 3D model here.

Jaime Rivera
Advisor: Adam Fure
University of Michigan
Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning
Ann Arbor, MI
Degree: MArch2
Winter 2016

This thesis investigates the relationship between color and form through the reconfiguration of voids and the shifting of volumes, where the misregistration of one creates an alternate reading of the other. Overlaps and non-geometric alignments of color establish perceptual miscues where identifiable forms (cubes, spheres, and lines) take a turn toward the graphic, identified here as a set of material conditions that stem from logics of paper space and software. These fluctuating relationships between formal operations (shift, slice, taper) and the application of color open possibilities for a perceptual space between the 3-dimensional space of geometry and the 2-dimensional space of the graphic, one perceived and the other imagined.

Separate investigations into elevation, section, plan and perspective cultivate discrete forms of attention to the object, as color and form change within each representational convention. For example, perspective showcases the interplay between 2D and 3D that arises when the application of color, which is determined in the abstract world of software, confronts the depth of the physical object’s shadow. This results in a changing set of aesthetic effects that change with the perceiver’s viewpoint.

In ‘Art as Technique,’ Viktor Shklovsky describes the perception of everyday life as automatic. According to him, the role of art is “to develop a variety of techniques to impede perception, or at least, to call attention to themselves.” The automated and automatic is the condition this thesis responds to, deploying the graphic to call attention to the perceptual and representational extents of form. Flat.obj identifies the graphic as a formal register that exists between the digital and the physical, and between architecture and graphic design, combining concepts and techniques from both into a hybrid medium.

UNBUILT: Infinite Networks | Modelo Blog Series

The process began with an exploration of prime examples of architecture, from built specimens to speculative utopias. The goal was to investigate the legacy of these models and adapt their principles to create an urban innovation hub for the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the city of Cambridge. The research also studied the influence of the post-war mega structure as a model for city–making.

Infinite Networks By Luke Prigofle and Greg Whitney Modelo »


The design ultimately came from an in-depth analysis of two architectural utopian visions from the past: The Golden Lane project from Alison and Peter Smithson and the Shinjuku Project of Arata Isozaki. Both projects envisioned a sprawling system that could navigate existing conditions, whether it be post war London, or the metropolis of Tokyo.


Both precedent projects dealt with the topic of strata. The Golden Lane project had alternating bands of public and living space, and utilized a mat-building typology to sprawl across a varied landscape. The intersection of these spaces along different routes would result in a grand public mixing space. Isozaki sought a similar approach. He saw the only way to develop more space was to go vertical. He created a new city above the existing urban environment by utilizing massive pylons to support a range of elevated programs.



Luke and Greg’s design takes these principles and uses them to create a new precinct for MIT and Kendall Square. The building plinth weaves around the site, connecting the academic of MIT and the entrepreneur of Cambridge.


The plinth is figuratively held in place by cores that reach out into the sky. When these systems meet, mixing spaces are created to allow innovation between everyone who uses the building. Around the cores, new towers emerge which allow for new, unlimited vertical growth. These two systems, plinth and tower, create a system which can grow along with MIT, Cambridge, and even further.



PennDesign 2015
Studio Instructor – Marion Weiss
Guest Critic – Michael Manfredi
Studio Assistant – Eric Bellin
Design Team – Luke PrifogleGreg Whitney


Design Miami/ Winning Pavilion Team: UNBUILT

Design Miami/ Winning Pavilion Team: UNBUILT

We are proud to announce that Modelo is the official 3D visualization technology provider for the winning team of Design Miami’s pavilion competition. Congratulations to the UNBUILT team, a group of five talented Harvard GSD students pictured below with the pavilion. 

Design Miami/ is the global forum for design that takes place annually in the welcoming, vibrant, and warm Floridian city of Miami. The forum brings together designers, critics and collectors, among others who are interested in art, fashion, and architecture. Each year, Design Miami/ commissions an architecture firm to design the entrance pavilion. But this year was a bit different. Instead of selecting a young professional firm for the commission, a group of university students competed for the honor. In a field of 32 competing Harvard Graduate School of Design teams, the winning team pavilion entry is “UNBUILT”! The team is comprised of five MArch 1 students: Joanne Cheung, Yiliu Shen-Burke, Jenny Shen, Steven Meyer, and Doug Harsevoort (pictured above). This design competition provided the students with a real life example of the design build process and resulted in the participation from members throughout the GSD community, due to its collaborative nature.

The UNBUILT team used pink foam to recreate 198 physical models from submissions from the GSD student body and implemented new 3D visualization technology from Modelo to enable easy digital access to every model through its website The title of the pavilion signifies that the models, each with its own unique design merits will ultimately be limited to model form, going unconstructed at a larger scale. The pink foam gives the project a bit of a whimsical feel allowing the school to have free will and to not take themselves too seriously. Still, the project took months of hard work and coordination with dozens of designers, collaborators and departments. The GSD put together a preview of the process in the following video.

Jenny Shen comments, “It’s fun to make a model and send them [the creators] a photo and they see this funny pink version of something they’ve worked on for a long time. It’s very gratifying to work with such a huge number of the community.”

Aside from being representations of past designs from GSD students, faculty, and practitioners that never had the chance to be created the team felt that together these models represent something bigger: a reflection of the culture of the GSD, a learning institution for all. The team’s idea was to be inclusive in its submission as opposed to picking one form and sticking to it on the site. 

“It was important for us to create this platform where you submit what you want to submit,” Steven told us. This was the foundation of the UNBUILT design pavilion project.

Visitors to the conference quickly learn that not everything from afar looks the same up close. From a distance, the pavilion might look like a pink field or cloud, but when you get up close you realize that every single particle has its own universe. The design had to function as a pavilion, which meant providing some amount of shade and an indication of entry way. Why pink foam? Foam takes up space and is malleable; the color pink mirrors the Miami culture and adds pop sensibility. The team’s focus was on creating a story and involving many characters in that story. UNBUILT takes something familiar that makes sense and speaks to architecture, but also speaks to a wider audience. When visitors are inside the pavilion, it’s experienced as an upside-down city; the words ‘invisible city’ were present from the very beginning for the team. The pavilion consists of a canopy of models, which provides shade and gathering space for visitors and a different perspective, since the sky is always the background for these pink 3D models.

“All of these models are proposals for things that could be made but may never exist. When you’re inside the pavilion, the hypothetical city mirrors the real city below. We like that duality,” Joanne Cheung explains.

The team hopes to create a dialogue of design and demonstrate how that plays into architecture and the consumers of architecture, more so than another version of the pavilion. Yiliu mentions, “I would like to think as well that people realized our statement is more than just that the ‘GSD makes a lot of models.’ But that there’s something deeper about the process of creating something without the intention necessarily of realizing it at full scale, but about understanding the process, understanding what you have to gain from the process.”

M-004 By Jorge San Martin Modelo »

Modelo’s role 

Modelo met with the UNBUILT team for an interview the same day that the 198 pink models were loaded onto a truck and driven to Miami. With a great sense of excitement and relief the team reflected on the overall experience and discussed their hopes for the digital representation of the models. Beyond the physical models actually creating the pavilion, the team also wanted to give visitors the opportunity to experience each model in-depth digitally with information about the designer and the form. Modelo’s 3D visualization platform supplies the technology needed for this presentation through the web browser. Visitors attending Design Miami/ are able to access the models in 3D throughout the conference and after via the UNBUILT team’s website.

During our discussion Doug pointed out that this digital experience allows visitors to connect with UNBUILT and all 198 models on a deeper level, “Even if you only ever go to one of those project pages, the realization that there are 198 projects around you that have that same level of detail and someone has thought about them to that level of detail is an added dimension to the project that we think is super valuable.”

We are incredibly excited to see the UNBUILT team utilizing Modelo’s embeddable 3D visualization technology, and we’re looking forward to providing architects and designers with 3D presentation tools through our platform. Modelo is now in private beta. For early access, you can sign up here!


Here are some more models from the UNBUILT pavilion for you to view.
(Click and drag to rotate, scroll up and down to zoom in and out)


M-157 By Xuanyi Nie Modelo »

M-094 By John Going Modelo »

M-021 By Ron Henderson Modelo »

M-154 By Weiss/Manfredi + Olin Modelo »

M:029 By Xuanyi Nie Modelo »